In the cash-sodden upper echelons of professional golf, the amount of chatter about money here and money there never seems to cease. In fact, it’s so relentless, I’m convinced the next time Lee Westwood gets interviewed, he’ll open his mouth and a great torrent of coins and notes will tumble out instead of actual words.
Westwood, after weeks of speculation and rumor, confirmed that he will be playing in the inaugural event on Greg Norman’s Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf Invitational Series at The Centurion Club next month which boasts a whopping prize fund of $ 25 million. The rebels are, slowly but surely, rearing their heads. Some of them seem to be losing their heads too. And it makes for an unedifying spectacle.
While Westwood trotted out a few whatabouteries to justify his decision to accept a bumper payday as he moves into the autumn years of his career, Sergio Garcia unveiled his intentions in a rather more spectacular fashion.
During the Wells Fargo Championship, the Spaniard was informed – incorrectly, it later emerged – by a PGA Tour rules official that he had exhausted the time allowed to find his ball in a hazard. That provided the catalyst for the former Masters champion to burst into the kind of foot-stamping tantrum you’d see in a supermarket aisle when a toddler lunges for a packet of chocolate and is thwarted by finger-wagging, parental intervention. “I can’t wait to leave this Tour,” he shrieked as the toys came hurtling out of the pram. “I can’t wait to get out of here. A couple of more weeks, I don’t have to deal with you anymore. ”
It was a wonderfully awful show of petulance from a 42-year-old with a history of crotchety, childish histrionics and petty grievances. He should’ve been sent to bed with no supper for the rest of the season. With the same sense of entitlement that used to be the reserve of unhinged Roman emperors, Garcia’s antics were perhaps not a surprise.
From throwing his shoe into the crowd at Wentworth back in 1999 during a fit of peevishness to spitting in the hole at Doral, Garcia has built up a dodgy dossier down the years. Getting disqualified from the Saudi International in 2019 for deliberately damaging a number of greens with his putter was the nadir. His latest explosion added yet more intrigue to this ongoing Saudi stooshie. It’s somewhat ironic that Garcia once blamed a significant dip in his form on the break-up of his relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter. Now it seems, he can’t wait to cozy up to his father and his bottomless pit of Saudi reserves.
Garcia, of course, is the perfect fit for the LIV Golf recruitment drive; a 40-something, veteran campaigner with, perhaps, his best days behind him. Among the under-40s, meanwhile, which includes all the game’s current, thrusting young superstars, there is still no enthusiasm for the concept despite the eye-watering piles of dosh on offer. Money can’t buy you love. Well, not yet anyway.
If the likes of Garcia, Westwood and 49-year-old Richard Bland, who also confirmed that he will be competing at The Centurion Club, are waltzing off with mighty checks – last place at next month’s event is worth nearly $ 120,000 – how long until others give in to the temptation and dip their bread in the gravy train?
On the same day that Westwood was being largely castigated for taking the LIV Golf carrot, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre was being widely lauded for his comments on the current saga.
“At the end of the day, there’s crazy, crazy money getting thrown at it,” said MacIntyre of the dizzying sums being tossed about in the wild. “If you ask me, it’s obscene money to be throwing at sports. There’s only so much money that a human needs. ”
MacIntyre is a successful and grounded young man with his head screwed on. He could teach a few of his elders a dignified thing or two as the power struggle at the top end of the men’s game grows ever more unsightly.
The general golfing public, meanwhile, may not give two hoots about all this commotion. The professional game, after all, makes up a tiny percentage of the wider golf ecosystem. As the celebrated American scribe, George Peper, once remarked at the Association of Golf Writers’ dinner a number of years ago: “If professional golfers were to vanish from the Earth tomorrow, golfers around the world would observe a moment of silence and then go right on playing the game they love. They’d hardly notice the professional tours had disappeared. Golf would carry on. ”
At the moment, though, golf’s obsession with money continues to cause, well, quite the carry-on.